Drought helps well companies, hurts landscape businesses

Associated Press
August 11, 2012
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The worst drought in decades has created a business boom for Indiana's well-drilling companies, whose crews are working long hours to dig new, deeper wells or install new pumps for homeowners whose wells ran dry.

Meanwhile, lawn-care and landscaping companies are scrambling to find work as the drought that's withered farmers' crops aids some businesses but harms others.

Bruce Moss, co-owner of Moss Well Drilling in Noblesville, said his business began picking up in the spring and only grew as the drought intensified. He estimated it's up 25 percent over last year and said crews have been working long hours to keep up with customers' demand.

"It's been an incredibly busy summer and we expect it to pretty much stay that way for a while," he said.

Some customers have required new, deeper wells, but most just needed to have their water pumps lowered deeper into their wells or a new pump installed to get the water flowing again, he said.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources' water division has received dozens of calls about wells running dry this summer, said Mark Basch, who oversees the division's water rights and use section. The drought has spurred more pumping of water from the state's aquifers — the water layers far below the ground — and he said that's impacted many wells by lowering the water table significantly in some areas.

Most of the extra pumping is being done by large farms irrigating crops, golf courses and municipal water plants serving communities that haven't enacted watering bans, he said.

"You talk to any water well driller or pump installer and they're staying very busy," Basch said. "They're having a hard time keeping up."

Although the drought has been a boon for businessmen like Moss, it's created frustration for landscaping and lawn-care businesses in communities that have watering restrictions.

Jeff Gatewood has never seen a summer this bad in 36 years at Allisonville Nursery in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers.

Indianapolis had its hottest July on record, with temperatures topping 90 degrees on 28 days, and less than an inch of rain fell in June and July.

"We've now gone where nobody's gone before. Hot, dry, hot, dry, record-setting all the time," Gatewood said.

With business down 20 percent to 30 percent because of the weather, he quit ordering new plants in June and cut hours and staff. Then he decided to get creative.

The nursery held a "heat stroke" sale in late July, offering customers a chance to buy plants and pick them up later, once cooler temperatures arrive and local watering bans are lifted. That brought people in and helped business some, he said.

"We're seeing a pent-up demand like a dam wanting to break. I think once we see cooler temperatures in the lower 80s, get a little rain shower — that's going to help," he said.

The nursery has clustered plants in shaded areas to protect them.

Aaron Stigall, who owns Ross Lawns & Landscaping in New Castle, said he employed 18 workers each of the past three years, but this year he cut his staff to six because the drought sharply reduced demand for his services.

"We can't spray or apply fertilizer and weed killers because the turf is under stress," he said. "And we can't mow."

Landscaping also is out of the question because transplanted shrubs and trees must be watered, but that's not allowed in areas with restrictions. Instead, Stigall's workers are installing paved patios and retaining walls and doing concrete repairs.

He's hoping rain and cooler temperatures arrive soon to bring revive lawns and his business.

Rich Blankenship, the president of the Indiana Nursery and Landscape Association, said the drought and watering bans have hurt many landscapers, including the Indianapolis firm, Mark M. Holeman Inc., where he's vice president.

Since Indianapolis' privately run water utility, Citizens Water, banned watering in July, he said his firm's business has plunged.

"Sales have absolutely gone over the cliff. It's just like winter came six months early," Blankenship said.

His company has had to lay off workers, cut hours and lower wages. And Blankenship said the drought and municipal water bans have had a cascade effect by hurting suppliers of plants, trees, flowers, fertilizers and other products.

"It's having quite a ripple effect across our industry — it's just not landscape contractors. It's everyone connected to us," he said.


  • not true!
    This has more false statements! A family member used to have a landscaping business! now they do not! The persongot a job working with farm equiment and he says the landscapers and farmers he knows have lost a lot! not hiring!

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Angela IS the best RD

  2. We are a nation of speed. All of our younger lives are filled with deadlines, quotas and bottom lines. We start to ease out of the pressured rat-race when we finally see "retirement." The most enjoyable travel on the planet is passenger rail service. Indy to Chicago does not beat Megabus or Southwest Airlines in speed. Passenger rail however has the best seating, mammoth legroon, seat backs that recline to more than 45 degrees and employers that really want you to return as a customer. Indiana municipalities need to maintain subsidies to support this transportation mode. Losing it is loss for all of us.

  3. Good day! I just want to testify how i got my loan from Mr. Eric Lefkofsky after i applied several times from various loan lenders who claimed to also testify right in this forum,i thought the testimonies where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan. Until a friend of mine introduce me to this popular Mr. Eric Lefkofsky who promised to help me and indeed he did as he promised without any form of delay. I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr. Eric lefkofsky who indeed helped me with the loan and changed my belief. I promised to share this testimony after I got my loan. I don't know if you are in any way in need of a genuine and urgent loan,free feel to contact Mr. Eric Lefkofsky via their email{grouponfunding@hotmail.com}

  4. Its a THUG issue. Bleecker Street and NYX are thug bars. They attract thugs of all races. Places that attract thugs need to be kicked out of Broad Ripple. Ain't nobody got time for that!

  5. Hello everyone, My name is Marian Gareth, I am from the Texas, United State, am here to testify of how i got my loan from Mr Andre Frank {frankloancompany@yahoo.com} after i applied Two times from various loan lenders who claimed to be lenders right in this forum,i thought their lending where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan.Until a friend of mine introduce me to Mr Andre Frank the C.E.O of Andre Frank Loan Company who promised to help me with a loan of my desire and he really did as he promised without any form of delay, I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr Andre Frank, who really help me with my loan and changed my lief for better. I don't know if you are in need of an urgent loan, free feel to contact Mr Andre Frank on his email{ Frankloancompany@yahoo.com} for help